Casa Giannerini seemed like one of those neighborhood restaurants that would go on forever, serving healthy portions of pasta and parmigiana to the citizens of Parkville and Hamilton. So it was a surprise to drive by recently and see that the Casa was no more. Fannie had arrived, and she looked great.
The black-and-red color scheme has been scuttled, as have such kitschy Mediterraneanisms as the suit of armor; Fannie's is classily done in teal and chintz-look wallpaper, and despite the lights of the Bi-Rite Supermarket glowing through uncurtained windows, it looks more upper-middle-class Pikesville than old-fashioned neighborly Parkville.
However, fans of the old menu will be cheered to note that Fannie's is well-stocked with all the pastas and parmigianas any Italian food lover could want, as well as a few Greek dishes and lots of choices from the American-Continental repertoire, portioned, it appears, for pro wrestlers.
Saganaki ($4.25), made of melted Greek cheese, doused with spirits and set alight, is always good fun and a messy pleasure to eat, but Fannie's version was so heavily laced with alcohol that the blue flame didn't go out for several minutes. The boozy taste that remained was so strong it shouted down the pungent flavors of cheese and lemon juice. The fried calamari ($3.75) were fine, though -- cut into plump rings, the squid were tender and had enough flavor to stand up to a spicy, oregano-heavy tomato dipping sauce.
Sole Florentine ($13.95) was a beautiful dish, a generous oval of pale fillet with seasoned, feta-fortified spinach mounded in the center, surrounded by a creamy pool of champagne sauce. The fish was firm and moist, and the spinach, while stringy, was delicious. The sauce might have been, too, had the flavors of shallots and oregano not been drowned by too much alcohol. Like the saganaki, this dish needed to be issued with a designated driver.
While milder than anticipated, the garlic, lemon, white wine and butter sauce on the chicken a la Fannie ($13.75) had well-balanced flavors -- the wine didn't take over, for a change -- that complemented the chicken breast. Artichoke hearts and asparagus added extra luxury, although the latter was inevitably overcooked.
Salads were fine, and the Italian green beans had some zip, but there was no excuse for the obviously fake whipped potatoes.
With half our meal already doggy-bagged, we weren't dying for dessert, but we weren't sorry we indulged. The key lime pie was properly yellow and bracingly tangy, and the homemade apple strudel tasted as Viennese as the Blue Danube.
Where: 6826 Harford Road.
Hours: Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Credit Cards: AE, MC, V.
Features: American, Continental and Mediterranean dishes.
Non-smoking section: No, but the large dining room and lounge can accommodate non-smokers who want to be seated apart from smokers.